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Open letter to candidates for election to RIBA President

UK Architects Declare has today sent the following Open Letter to Chris Williamson, Funmbi Adeagbo, Duncan Baker-Brown - candidates in the current election to the position of Presdient of the RIBA (copied to the current President, Muyiwa Oki):

The election of a new President of the Royal Institute of British Architects comes at a time of heightened awareness of the scale and scope of the planetary emergency and the significant contribution our built environment makes to furthering the crisis. Now is also a time of unprecedented opportunity for architects and those we work with to take real action to solve these deeply rooted problems.

UK Architects Declare supports practices in transitioning to regenerative design and in demonstrating where the systems that govern how our built environment performs can be changed, moving us away from continued degenerative actions to a positive future for all. Our vision for our sector’s part in tackling the emergency is bold: “A built environment planned, constructed and operated within planetary boundaries to deliver environmental justice and to support the flourishing of all life for all time.”

We are proud to have worked closely with the RIBA on important steps on this journey. Our joint Built for the Environment report and summit ahead of the COP26 global conference in Glasgow in 2021 showed the opportunities for the UK to lead. More radical and systemic change is required, with the greatest action needed at the highest leverage points involved in changing any system:

  1. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system - its goals, power structure, rules, its culture - arises.
  2. The goals of the system.
  3. The distribution of power over the rules of the system.
  4. The rules of the system (incentives, punishments, constraints).
  5. Information flows.
  6. Material flows and nodes of material intersection.
  7. Driving positive feedback loops.

It is here that key institutions such as the RIBA must lead. RIBA has a central role in how our profession adapts to our changing reality and leads the urgent transition we need. Putting it simply, what would it look like if RIBA maximised its agency on the planetary emergency?

We call on all candidates for this new term of office to engage clearly and directly with the following policies as the driving force for the RIBA’s actions on the planetary emergency in the short, medium and long terms:

1. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, power structure, rules, its culture — arises.

  • Redefine the RIBA’s definition of the purpose of the profession to include addressing the climate and biodiversity emergency and designing within planetary limits.
  • Collaborate with other professional institutions to demand of Government the systems changes necessary to safeguard the future and address climate justice. These include the following 4 points:
  1. Join the Wellbeing Economy Government Partnership (alongside Scotland and Wales) to prioritise wellbeing over GDP and adopt the maximisation of planetary health as the primary purpose driving our economy.
  2. Implement a Better Business Act to impose a duty to wider stakeholders including the living world as to require a clearly stated purpose for all companies.
  3. Move towards Doughnut Economics, to utilise the built environment to bring all UK citizens above the social foundation while staying within planetary limits.
  4. Implement a Wellbeing of Future Generations Act as proposed by Lord Bird and the UN.

2. The goals of the system

  • Align all RIBA awards with the redefined purpose of the profession, as above.
  • Expand the RIBA Architecture 2030 scheme to align with leading regenerative thinking.

3. The distribution of power over the rules of the system

  • Appoint an advisor on regenerative design (reporting directly to the President).
  • Create a standing Ethics committee to advise the board on decision-making, and put forward annual debates (similar to RICS Harris Debates).

4. The rules of the system (incentives, punishments, constraints)

5. Information flows

  • Organise an extensive programme of lectures, workshops and training featuring leading experts on how to address the planetary emergency through supporting innovation in products or workflows for sustainable or regenerative construction.

6. Material flows and nodes of material intersection

  • Review sponsorship deals through an ethical/sustainable lens.

7. Driving positive feedback loops

  • Share open access data on the RIBA 2030 Challenge.

UK Architects Declare stands ready to work with and support the RIBA and its President in enacting change at these levels, including calling on others in the profession, the built environment sector and governments across the UK to identify and bring about complementary systems change. We will also continue to develop the practical initiatives - such as our Regenerative Architecture Index (with Architecture Today), our Regenerative Design Primer and Practice Guide - to support architectural practices as we help to build a better future, and welcome opportunities to work with the RIBA on these.

From the UK Architects Declare Steering Group:

Alasdair Ben Dixon, Anna Lisa McSweeney, Anna Pamphilon, Anna Woodeson, Carrie Behar, Chloe van Grieken, Craig Robertson, Deepthi Ravi, Julia Barfield, Kevin Logan, Laura Baron, Mandy Franz, Michael Pawlyn, Tom Gibson, Tom Greenall, Zoe Watson

6 June 2024

Deadline Extended for Regenerative Architecture Index

We're encouraged by the number of people who have begun registering to join the innovative Regenerative Architecture Index scheme with Architecture Today! But we appreciate that it's a process to complete the application, involving discussions across a practice's team. We've therefore agreed with Architecture Today to extend the deadline by a week to Friday 24th May.

It's also been good to see questions coming in as people explore what the Index involves. For example, do you need to be able to answer all the questions? No!

The Index captures good practice across many aspects of a business's approach to regenerative design in its policies as well as its projects. With a set of 19 questions in all, we do not expect all applicants will be delivering across every facet of our three core principles of Being a Good Ancestor, Co-evolving with Nature and Creating a Just Space for People. As such, it is not necessary to be able to answer every question in the application, and we expect there to be gaps. Having said that, we're also interested in the problems that practices encounter as they explore regenerative design, as well as their achievements.

The over-arching aims of the Index are to share knowledge and to support organisations making real efforts to incorporate regenerative thinking into their practices and projects. The Index won't be ranked 'top to bottom' in the conventional way, but will highlight practices that have performed well on each individual question, with examples where appropriate. From this, we will end up with a compendium of best practice, rather than a conventional ranking table. The Index will also anonymously highlight barriers, challenges and obstacles to help learning across the sector.

The Index is open to all organisations involved in the design of our built environment, and we welcome entries from beyond the UK.

As well as the Index, UK Architects Declare has also recently launched our first Regenerative Design Primer to help organisations explore and implement the principles of this transition to design with a positive impact.

16 May 2024

Recruiting new Steering Group members - deadline for applications extended

We've extended the deadline for new vacancies on our Steering Group to Friday 8th March 2024.

We are keen to recruit new members from among our signatories, reflecting the diversity of practices as we develop AD’s programme. Our Steering Group are all volunteers and actively lead on many aspects of our work through small SG groups as well as full Steering Group meetings.

New members will contribute to the full range of the Steering Group’s discussions and decisions. It's a great opportunity to get involved in our busy work programme! You can find out what's involved and how to apply in our Role Description.

28 February 2024

: Announcements

Building Blocks to Transform the Built Environment: 'early adoption policies' briefing document

UK Architects Declare has been working hard with partners to finalise our policy document, Building Blocks to Transform the Built Environment, for its Parliamentary launch on 12th March. Key industry voices will be joining MPs and Lords to hear about and discuss the policy priorities in AD's manifesto for the next UK Government.

A 1-page briefing document, highlighting key 'early adoption policies' in the manifesto, has been endorsed by a range of industry bodies. AD will be presenting these at ACAN's stand (D40) at Futurebuild on 6th March: Come along to find out more!

28 February 2024

: Announcements

Entries are open for the inaugural Regenerative Architecture Index

Entries are open for the inaugural Regenerative Architecture Index

UK Architects Declare and Architecture Today have launched the world’s first Regenerative Architecture Index.

Benchmarking participating practices on their regenerative policies, actions and working practices, the Index aims to share best practice, celebrate success, raise awareness across the wider construction sector and act as a catalyst for regenerative practice across the industry. We will also use the initiative to identify obstacles to progress, encourage knowledge sharing and identify tools, methods or policy measures required to support the transition to a low-carbon, high well-being and resilient future.

AD will also very soon be publishing a free Regenerative Design Primer. Complementing our 2021 Practice Guide (and replacing its short chapter on regenerative design), this Primer will support practices participating in the Index - and all built environment designers looking to make this transition.

The Index asks participants about their practice and its projects under three broad headings:

Part 1: Being a good ancestor.

This is about a shift in practice mindsets to consider truly long-term thinking. Our decisions today should consider seven generations ahead, ensuring adaptability and flexibility for the future. This requires innovative thought, as current models are rarely beneficial in the long term.

Part 2: Co-evolving with nature.

This is about recognising that we are part of nature, within integral living systems, not separate from it. Our work should actively regenerate ecosystems by learning from and working with natural systems. This requires designing for circularity and encouraging closed-loop energy, material and water cycles.

Part 3: Creating a just space for people.

This is about providing social connection, economic opportunity and wellbeing for all. Our design processes should foster a shared sense of stewardship where neighbourhoods can self-organise and build their resilience. This requires ethical, inclusive and participative approaches.

The deadline for entries is Wednesday 17th May.

The results will be published in September 2024 in a special issue of Architecture Today and on the Architecture Today website.

26 February 2024

: Announcements

Statement on Labour's reversal on its Green Investment pledge

Responding to the recent announcement by the Labour Party reversing its pledge to invest £28 billion annually on investment to combat the climate and biodiversity emergency, the Steering Group of UK Architects Declare today said:

"We are deeply disappointed by Labour’s recent decision to scale back investment in a safer future. This is a massive missed opportunity to show true climate leadership at a time in history where it matters most. The tragedy is that there are a plethora of solutions that could solve our planetary emergency, whilst also bringing about greater social justice. The Climate Change Committee has estimated that up to 725,000 jobs could be created in the low carbon sector, proving that greater investment makes both scientific and economic sense for the long term.

"We are hopeful that there are still some courageous voices within parliament, and we encourage them to speak out against the short-sighted mindset that is driving the destruction of the living world. As UK Architects Declare we remain committed to shaping a positive future and will be presenting our ‘Building Blocks’ policy manifesto at Portcullis House on the 12th of March. We encourage our signatories to write to their local MP to invite them along.

"We agree with Muyiwa Oki, President of the RIBA, who recently said of this announcement that, with the climate emergency intensifying, urgent national action is needed: ‘Ambitious and sustained investment from whomever forms the next Government, and the private sector, will be critical to address the scale of this challenge. ... Act now, or future generations will pay the price.’"

13 February 2024

: Statements

UK Architects Declare seeks volunteers to expand our working groups

We plan and deliver our activities through small working groups, with Steering Group members and other volunteers from across our signatory practices and beyond. These are mostly ‘task & finish’ groups, typically working over periods of a few months up to a year.

We now wish to expand our groups with suitable volunteers. Please get in touch if you would like to be involved in any groups below! Skills you might contribute could include research, drafting, graphics & design, proofreading, building networks, and promotion - among many other ways to support us. You can find details in our Call Out.

7 February 2024

: Announcements

AD is seeking new members to expand our Steering Group!

We have new vacancies on our Steering Group and are keen to recruit new members from among our signatories, reflecting the diversity of practices as we develop AD’s programme. Our Steering Group are all volunteers and actively lead on many aspects of our work through small SG groups as well as full Steering Group meetings.

New members will contribute to the full range of the Steering Group’s discussions and decisions. It's a great opportunity to get involved in our busy work programme! You can find out more of what's involved and how to apply in our Role Description.

31 January 2024

: Announcements

AD joins call for Embodied Carbon Regulation in the UK

Leading construction industry and built environment experts from 11 organisations - including UK Architects Declare as part of the Built Environment Declares family - have today called for policy action in this election year.

UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), Construction Industry Council (CIC), Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), Built Environment Declares, RIBA, RICS, Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE), and Part Z and have joined forces to send a consistent message to UK political party leaders about the urgent need for regulation of embodied carbon emissions in construction.

They assert that this is necessary as buildings and construction form a substantial part of UK carbon emissions, which are a main driver of climate change. UK policy has stalled, and urgent action is needed.

The group of experts has issued a paper to political leaders with a key ask: to include in their manifestos a commitment to move to reduce embodied carbon emissions in construction within two years of starting government.

Additionally, the experts list specific steps for action:

In 2024: Policy signalled confirming the dates and interventions below.

By 2026: Mandate the measurement and reporting of whole-life carbon emissions for all projects with a gross internal area of more than 1000m2 or that create more than 10 dwellings.

By 2028: Introduce legal limits on the upfront embodied carbon emissions [those emissions due to the use of materials in the initial construction] of such projects, with a view to future revision and tightening as required.

The group says these actions are essential as around 1 in 10 tonnes of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions are “embodied carbon” emissions. These relate to the production and use of construction materials, which account for a substantial part of the UK’s overall carbon emissions.

You can view the one-page Position Paper here on the Institution of Structural Engineers website.

31 January 2024

: Government

UK Architects Declare & Architecture Today launch Regenerative Architecture Index

With Architecture Today, we are launching the world’s first Regenerative Architecture Index (RAI) as a means of benchmarking architects on regenerative projects, policies, working practices and actions.

The Index rejects the notion of ranking practices by profitability and size, instead benchmarking participating practices on their regenerative policies, actions and working practices. Its aim is to share best practice, celebrate success, and communicate this work to the wider construction industry to raise awareness and act as a catalyst for regenerative practice across the industry.

The RAI 2024 will launch with a call for entries in January 2024. Participating practices will be invited to answer questions both on the practice itself and on the projects it delivers, under three broad headings:

Part 1: Being a good ancestor, will look at evidence of long-term thinking and a concern for the well-being of future generations.

Part 2: Co-evolving with nature, will look at measures to support a mutually enriching coexistence with the natural world.

Part 3: Creating a just space for people, will look at issues around inclusivity, diversity, equality and engagement.

The results will be published in September 2024 on the Architecture Today website and in a special issue of Architecture Today. Graphs and tables indicating practices’ progress in specific areas will accompanied by case studies, commentary and analysis designed to produce a comprehensive compendium of best practice in the transition to regenerative architecture. Just as importantly, the RAI will also identify obstacles to progress, encouraging peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and advice, but also identifying any tools, methods or policy interventions required to support the transition to a low-carbon, high well-being and resilient future.

The Index is not a conventional awards programme – the focus is educational rather than competitive, with an evolving series of activities based on benchmarking, sharing experience and acknowledging challenges and mistakes. That said, a practice, or practices, that have performed particularly well will be rewarded with a bespoke retreat at Schumacher College in Devon, as an opportunity to recharge and establish a roadmap to regeneration for the year ahead.

We're looking forward to sharing more details very soon. For further information, in the first instance contact [email protected]

21 November 2023

: Announcements